Castor’s Underrated Gems – Villain (1971)

Once more into the frat of Cockney hooliganism, Villain is a pungently facinorous crime drama which loosens the reigns from Richard Burton. Burton was usually the staid rock of Gibraltar in films but, as Vic Dakin, he is a frothing, on-the-verge-of-conniption thug. And he is sinfully jolly in the role. Along with the diametric casting, another variation to the recipe is that Vic is a preening homosexual who will mutilate a snitch and dangle the carcass of a balcony before serving breakfast to his invalid “mum”.

Ian McShane is the blandishing bisexual who has ensnared the libido and complicity of Vic. In hindsight, McShane’s appearance is quite malnourished after his partnership with Oliver Reed in Sitting Target. With a smattering of vinegary British wit, a constable remarks that Vic “can’t be all bad” after his weekly walks in the park with his mother. The key behind a cadre of Burton’s performances are his laterally inscrutable blue eyes and pillowy lower lip. With such features, it is unconscionable that he wasn’t relegated to more antagonist roles.

One could binge Get Carter, Sitting Target and Villain and despite the frippery of East End intimidation, the trio are altogether antipodal experiences. Michael Tuchner refrains from self-parody in terms of Vic’s repressed sexual orientation and maternal devotion.

While Nigel Davenport’s Inspector Matthews is clearly the hero of the piece, Tuchner facetiously dapples salubrious wholesomeness among the hoodlums (they don’t gamble in casinos, they have nocturnal curfews and they are usually imbibing milk). The sideswiping factory payroll robbery is brutishly shambolic chaos.

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